City of Medford discusses modernization of 60-year-old pool

MEDFORD, Ore.– Plans on what it would take to build a new city pool are being discussed in Medford City Council this week. A study session Thursday will be analyzing what kind of aquatics center would be needed and how much it could cost.

It’s been nearly 60 years since the Jackson Aquatics Center was first built in Medford and now the discussion is building up again about ways to bring a modern aquatics facility into the city.

“I think it’s really sad honestly that we don’t already have one,” said Sydney Smedley, a resident of Medford. She and her three kids have used the pool before but for them, a new pool would be a benefit for everyone in the community.

Since 1960, the city had two public pools. Hawthorne pool closed in 2010, leaving Jackson pool to provide for a population that’s grown dramatically. According to the Medford Parks and Recreation Department, the size of the Jackson pool has remained constant while the population of Medford has nearly tripled.

Medford Parks and Recreation Director Rich Rosenthal acknowledges – it’s a problem.

“Profound and acute deficiency in aquatics facilities in the Rogue Valley and particularly in the City of Medford,” he said.

The Jackson Aquatics Center has been maintained over the decades. But according to the parks department, “a catastrophic failure could quickly shutter the facility.”

“Its time seems to be done,” said Smedley, “I feel if we did have funding, if we did pull through with the pool, I think it would be great for our community.”

Rosenthal says surveys performed by the parks department show a majority of the public want a new pool. But history tells a different story.

“The city is 0 – 4 in asking voters to increase their property taxes,” he said.

Since the pool opened, the city has tried several times to pass a bond measure to fund construction of a new facility. In the last four tries to gain public funding – 1971, 1988, 1998 and 2012- it’s failed every time.

But proponents are hoping that this go-around, things will be different.

“Even though it’s just a rectangular pool, there were almost 15,000 people that used the facility this year,” said Rosenthal.

The Jackson Aquatics Center has seen over a million visitors since it opened. However, the cost to the public seems to be the biggest hold-up. The hope among supporters is that people can see the advantages of having a new facility.

“I hope that people can see a vision for the kids in our community to have that opportunity,” said Smedley.

The study session on Thursday will cover a variety of facility options, site area and how much it may cost. No set amount has been released but details should be made clearer after this meeting.

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